Tyler Wells

Tyler Wells connected with big buck shortly before dark on the afternoon of Nov. 22. The free-ranging buck has been officially green scored at 197 6/8 gross and 189 3/8 for the Texas Big Game Awards program.

It never comes as much of a surprise to learn that a Grayson County deer hunter has connected with a real whopper. The county is steeped in big buck lore built around whitetails with antlers to shock the imagination.

Located in the upper Post Oak, Grayson is one of a handful of Texas counties where archery gear and crossbows are the only legal means by which white-tailed deer may be legally taken. The restrictive harvest regulations combined with good genes and pockets of excellent habitat create the perfect storm for archers fortunate enough to have a sweet spot to hunt.

Each deer season, bowhunters around the region hold their breath in anticipation that a lucky Grayson County archer might cross paths with a Boone and Crockett-caliber whitetail. Not many seasons go by that it doesn't happen — sometimes more than once.

Perhaps the most famous Grayson County buck ever belongs to Jeff Duncan of Sanger. Known to local hunters as "Big Boy," the big non-typical was taken in 2001 during a public draw hunt at 11,300-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

The 26-point rack nets 225 7/8 inches, according to the B&C scoring system. The buck ranked as the biggest free-ranging whitetail ever taken by a Texas bowhunter until 2010.

Tyler Wells of Anna was only six-years-old the day Duncan brought down the legendary buck that still stands as the county record. Admittedly, Wells knew nothing about deer hunting at such a young age. Today, he knows all about Grayson County magic.

He lived the lore last month.

On Nov. 22, the 27-year-old archer arrowed what is sure be one of the best open range bucks reported from the eastern half of the state this season.

Wells’ buck is a main frame 10 pointer with tall tines, great mass and three abnormal points, including a forked brow tine and a nasty-looking 16 2/8-inch dagger that sprouts from the right antler near the base.

Texas Big Game Awards program scorer Greg Shumate of Seymour taped the 13-point buck at 197 6/8 gross and 189 3/8 B&C net. The buck falls just shy of the 195 minimum net score required for non-typical entry in B&C all-time records, but easily tops the 155 minimum for Pope and Young entry.

P&Y is the official records keeper for North American big game taken on open range by bow and arrow. The organization utilizes the same scoring format as B&C, which recognizes North American big game animals taken on open range by bow, rifle, handgun and other methods.

There are some interesting twists to Wells’ big buck tale. One of the most compelling is the fact the buck was arrowed on a tiny slice of real estate spanning only 42 acres. Wells shares the small farm with his father, Danny, and brother, Josh.

The hunter said high quality bucks seem to frequent the property every year, but these guys are way choosier than most about the ones they shoot.

“An older gentleman told me a long time ago that you will never put a tag on a 190 if you tag is already on a 160,” Wells said. “I’ve never forgotten that.”

Wells said he had the buck inside 20 yards on three occasions during the 2019 season. He never drew his compound bow the first time.

Wells claims the buck was easily in the 170s last season as a 5 1/2-year-old.

“We thought he had the potential to get to 200, so we decided to give it another year to see if we could get him there,” he said. “He didn’t quite make it, but he got really close. That just goes to show you those bucks in that part of the country can definitely grow a lot of bone on top their heads if you let them get old. My brother shot a 7 1/2-year-old buck last season that went 169. It was just a 9 pointer.”

Technology played a key role in Wells’ success. Like many modern hunters, the Wells brothers are huge fans of trail cameras.

The cameras keep the hunters abreast of the animals that are out there. More importantly, they help them pattern the movements of the deer.

The Covert-brand cameras Wells uses are programmed to automatically send photos to his cell phone when triggered.

On the afternoon of November 22, Wells said he received a photo from a camera strategically placed at one end of a thicket the deer use as a bedding area.

The picture showed the big buck entering the thicket about noon. A second camera did not show the buck making an exit from the opposite end of the bedding area.

Acting on the hunch that the buck had holed up inside, the two men got positioned at opposite ends of the thicket for the afternoon hunt.

The plan worked like a charm.

“I got in a stand on the north end and my brother got set on the south end,” Wells said. “We figured he’d stand up about dark and go one way or the other. That way it worked out the buck walked right past me at 10 yards.”

Add Wells’ name to the budding list of hunters lucky enough to live the lore of Grayson County.

Matt Williams is a freelance outdoors writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

Outdoors Briefs

Bowie Co. Buck Update: Monster buck confirmed as high fence escapee

By Matt Williams

Outdoors Writer

A 24-point buck shot before Thanksgiving on open range in Bowie County by Mack Hammonds of Simms has been unofficially green scored at 269 2/8 Boone and Crockett inches as a non-typical.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department experts initially thought the deer may have lived much of its life on vast blocks of Corp of Engineers property along the Sulphur River drainage that feeds 19,000-acre Wright Patman Lake and wandered off once hunting season got underway.

However, it has since been confirmed that the buck had escaped from a high fence enclosure earlier this year. The enclosure is located in close proximity to the open range property the hunter has leased for hunting, according Caleb Young, a close friend to the Hammonds family.

Young said the buck was doing things wild deer do the day Hammonds shot it.

“Mr. Hammonds just happened to be in the right place at the right time when he saw the buck behind a doe,” he said. “He knew the buck was legal but had no idea of what he really was. He made a good clean kill on the deer and walked up on the 269 2/8-inch giant. It was the buck of a lifetime for him, no doubt.”

Young added that a local taxidermist has aged the buck at 9 1/2 years old.

Good as Hammonds’ buck is, it will not be eligible for entry into the B&C records program because of its known high fence history, according to Justin Spring, director big game records with the Boone and Crockett Club.

The Texas Big Game Awards program run jointly by TPWD and the Texas Wildlife Association does have a category for high fence animals. However, the program does not recognize animals that were born or bred in captivity and subsequently released into the wild, according to Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader.

Cain added that TBGA rules also prohibit entry of an animal that has been trapped and/or released at any time during its life, including those used in approved university research study. Additionally, as of March 2017, the program began no longer accepting scored entries from release sites for five years of the last release date.

Elites, MLF head to Texas in 2021

Pro bass fishing’s heaviest hitters will visit Texas waters multiple times in early 2021, according to schedules released by the Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour.

Bassmaster will be on three different Texas lakes between March and April. Every Elite Series event is big, but the first tournament is the granddaddy — the Bassmaster Classic. The event is set for March 19-21 on Lake Roberts north of Dallas with daily weigh-ins set for Dickies Arena in downtown Fort Worth.

From there the Elites travel to the Sabine River in Orange for a regular season event on April 8-11. Local fans always rally when the Elites visit Orange. The 2013 Elite tournament there drew 33,000 spectators — the second-largest crowd in circuit history.

The final Texas stop on the schedule is April 22-25, when Lake Fork hosts the Elite Series TexasFest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

MLF’s Bass Pro Tour has two Texas events on tap, including Stage One set for March 21-26 on Sam Rayburn in Jasper and Stage Two on April 30-May 5 on Lake Travis in Austin.

Ducks, dove, turkeys and more

The second split of the Texas duck season is now underway in the North and South zones as well as the High Plains Mallard Management Unit. The season runs through Jan. 31, 2021.

Hunters are allowed 6 ducks daily. A limit may not include more than 5 mallards (only two may be hens), 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 1 scaup, 1 pintail or 1 dusky duck.

Legal shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. Shotguns should be plugged to a three shot capacity. Approved shot for waterfowl includes steel (including copper, nickel or zinc-coated steel), bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer and any other approved nontoxic material.

Hunters should always avoid hunting over or around bait areas. According to TPWD, directly or indirectly placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them is prohibited by federal law. Hunters are responsible for knowing whether an area is baited or not.

All duck hunters are required to have current hunting license and a Texas Migratory Bird Stamp Endorsement. Additionally, waterfowl hunters 16 and older are required to have a Federal Duck Stamp.

 Several other bird seasons are currently underway or about to begin. Heres the rundown, according to TPWD:

Dove

* North Zone – Dec. 18, 2020 – Jan. 3, 2021

* Central Zone – Dec. 18, 2020 – Jan. 14, 2021

* South Zone – Dec. 18, 2020 – Jan. 23, 2021

Quail

* Statewide through Feb. 28, 2021

Rio Grande Turkey (Fall Season)

* North Zone – Open through Jan. 3, 2021

* South Zone – Open through Jan. 17, 2021

* Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy Counties – Open through Feb. 28, 2021

* There is no Fall turkey season in East Texas.

Sandhill Cranes

* Zone A – Open through Jan. 31, 2021

* Zone B – Open through Jan. 31, 2021

* Zone C – Dec. 19, 2020 – Jan. 24, 2021

Woodcock

* Statewide Dec. 18, 2020 – Jan. 31, 2021

Rails, Gallinules and Moorhens

Open statewide through Dec. 30, 2020

Chachalaca

Open through Feb. 28, 2021.

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